Tigua Indians The Saga of the Tigua Indians is an amazing one. By all reasoning they should have been wiped out long ago. There quiet defiance to change, however, has carried them through. From the height of civilization to near extinction the Tigua have remained. They endure imprisonment by the Spanish, oppression and manipulation by everyone that followed.
This is the story of a people thought to extinct, that are once again learning to survive. Early histories of the Tigua Indians are conflicting and largely untrue. Since 1680 it had been believed that the Tiguas were traitors to the Pueblo Nation, and had chose sides with the Spanish during the Pueblo Revolt. Upon the Spanish retreat south it was believed that the Tiguas chose to flea with the Spanish Military. The truth of their migration south is somewhat different. The Tigua are direct descendants of the Pueblo Indians of Isleta, New Mexico.
There name Tigua, or Tiwa, refers to the dialect that they speak. Long before they founded Isleta, however, they were the inhabitants of a much more spectacular home; the fabled city of Gran Quivira, the golden city that drew the interest of Coronado. By 800 A.D. the city covered seventeen acres. T its height it had twenty housing projects built in the form of towering apartments, when most of Europe was nothing but primitive tribes. Terraces, garden apartments, churches, workshops and kitchens separated these projects.
The masons were so skilled that the stones required no cement, and the carpenters cut wood in a way that the beams required no nails. When the Spanish finally found this city of legends they ere so impressed that they called it Pueblo de los Humanas, or the City of Human Beings. Then they went about destroying the city and the people forcing them into exile. This marked the beginning of centuries of abuse. From relocation to theft the Tiguas were to become the plaything of Europeans and Americans alike.
In 1680 the majority of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico staged a revolt against the Spanish. On the whole the Tigua did not join the revolt. Some believe this is an indication that the Tigua were loyal to the cross and to Spain. This is not entirely accurate. As the southernmost pueblo, location probably had more to do with the fate of the Tigua then anything.
The news of this revolt led by an Indian named Pope? had not yet reached Isleta. By the time it had the Tigua were overrun by retreating Spaniards. Being the southernmost city it was the natural regrouping ground for Otermin and his troops. With such a large presence of Spanish soldiers it would have been foolish for the Indians of Isleta to resist them. After failed attempts to recapture lands lost to the north, Governor Otermin finally decided to give up and proceeded south to greater safety of the Mission of Guadalupe at Juarez.
The Spanish were accompanied by a group of Indians from mixed tribes, including a few Tigua. One in Juarez three camps for the Indians were established. Alvaro de Zualata was the first priest of the Sacramento camp was located on the present day site of the Mission Church at Ysleta, Texas. Ysleta, Texas, or Ysleta del Sur is the current location of the remaining Tigua Indians. Two other camps were also formed; St.
Pedro de Alcantarra and Seneca del Sur. The present Church of Ysleta has an interesting record from this time stating that in addition to these camps set up by the Spanish, “a few Tigua try to found Ysleta del Sur in a nearby place. In 1681 Otermin was determined to recapture the lost territories in New Mexico. He mounted an expedition to the north and was successful in surprising the Pueblo of Isleta under the cover of darkness. He was able to capture nearly all of the inhabitants.
The Spanish continued to move north. The Pueblo forces were successful again, however, in repulsing the Spanish. Thus forcing the Spanish back south toward El Paso. As many as 100 Isleta Pueblo escaped from the Spanish on their journey southward. It is believed that these along with a few others that escaped the initial attack fled to Arizona to seek refuge with the Hopi Indians, a tribe they had always been friendly with. The remaining Tigua were shackled and used as a human shield on the treacherous trek south to El Paso. This is evidenced by Otermin’s own words in his report the Extractos: ” ..
protection would thus be afforded [the Spanish] along the retreat [while] danger of the Indians returning to apostasy would thereby be relieved.” The Spanish returned in February 1682 with 385 Tiguas, all which was left after the dreaded Journada de Muerto, a trackless waste of sixty miles void of water and shelter. Because of the increased number of Indian captives the settlements were reorganized. The Tiguas were moved from Santismo Sacramento to a nearby site to form the Pueblo of Corpus Christi de la Ysleta del Sur Pueblo where they have remained to this day. The Tigua were immediately forced into labor building a new mission. This indentured servitude went on for some time.
In 1751 King Charles V of Spain made a formal land grant to the Tiguas that gave them title to a thirty-six square mile area. . This surrounded their mission with a “Four League Grant”(one league in each direction from the church). This came after being ignored when the other Pueblo Indians received Four League Grants in 1689. After lengthy court battles the Mexican government reaffirmed the Tigua right to this land in 1834.
Unfortunately for the Tiguas, Ysleta del Sur was the only pueblo not reaffirmed by the U.S government in 1864, because Texas had joined the Confederacy. This is at least the reason given by the United States as to why the Tigua were ignored when the other Pueblos were recognized. This argument, however, is flawed in that the Federal government never recognized the secession of the Confederate States. This means that the Tigua should have been extended the same protection as the other Pueblos. In order to understand how the eventually loss of tribal lands played out it is important to now take a few steps back in.
The original grants from Spain were intended to provide protected land that would be free from non-Indian settlement. The Pueblos were to set up there own system of authority. So in effect the grants set up each pueblo as an independent, sovereign nation. King Charles gave each governor a cane that would be an outward symbol of his authority in addition to the written documents. These canes were modeled after the ones used in Mexico, and Spain. Forty years later with the issuing of Recopelacion de las leyes de los Reynos de las Indios the grants, their rivers and other water sources were protected from being sold or taken away.
In 1811 further laws were passed to ensure the protection of Indian lands from sale. In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain. The new government reaffirmed the Spanish laws that had protected the Tigua land grants. During the next fourteen years the grants were reaffirmed four times. This protection continued when Texas won its independence from Mexico. The Constitution of the Republic of Texas recognized and honored all Spanish and Mexican land grants. Even thought the State Legislature adopted English common law in 1840 the grants were accepted, thereby protecting their sovereignty.
The Treaty of Hidalgo was signed in 1848 after Texas had been admitted into the Union and the Mexican-American War ended. Along with granting the U.S. all lands east of the Rio Grande, upper California and New Mexico, it also provided recognition and the protection to all individuals owning private property acquired under the Spanish and Mexican laws, including the Indian land grants. John Calhoun, Indian Agent for the Territory of New Mexico(at this time included El Paso), reported that the Pueblos of Socorro and Ysleta del Sur had been granted land that covered over seventy-two square miles. The Relinquishment Act of the Texas Legislature gave the Tigua an additional two leagues of land to replace those lost by the shifting of the Rio Grande in 1832.
In the Fifth Legislature Special Laws, Texas confirmed the original Spanish land grant. They then authorized the issuance of a patent title. This gave the Tigua patent to their own lands. Finally feeling secure the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo began to flourish. Crops were bountiful thanks to the rotational farming methods of the Tigua that allowed cultivated land to remain unused for one year between plantings.
Irrigation was dug for dry periods and land was left untouched in reserve for future expansion due to growth in numbers. As new settlers moved into the area they began to desire the well-cultivated land of the Tigua. The land, however, was currently protected by law. The land was even more coveted by the people who knew of the forthcoming transcontinental railroad. Ysleta lay directly in the path to connect El Paso to this all-important line.
The land was virtually invaluable to the Railroad companies, and whoever held the deed to said land stood to make an immense profit. This leads to the story of the blue-blood “rings” of El Paso, namely the “Fountain Ring”. While no official business agreement exists for the men about to be discussed the overwhelming evidence supports the theory that these men worked together to collectively acquire the rights to this invaluable land. 1861 saw the beginning of the Civil War and Texas seceded from the Union to join the Confederacy. Three years later while Texas was still in the Confederacy, and unwitting President Lincoln made an error that would eventually cost the Tigua nearly their entire land grant.
In March President Lincoln issued what have become known as the “Lincoln Canes” to the New Mexico Pueblo Governors, following the example set by King Charles V. He followed this symbol with patents. Thus making the Pueblos the only Indians to hold title to their own land. Since Texas was part of the Confederacy the Tiguas and Ysleta del Sur were left out of this gesture. The exclusion left the Tigua in the Jurisdiction of the state rather than federal government.
Senator Albert Fountain returned to El Paso in 1866 to make a new start. He was recuperating from wounds he had received fighting Indians as a captain in a volunteer cavalry. This was after he had been discharged by the U.S. Army in 1864. During Reconstruction, El Paso became a haven for carpetbagger lawyers.
Attorneys were needed since judges appointed by Reconstructionists seldom allowed ex-Confederates to practice law in their courts. There were a great number of cases, especially involving ownership in land. W.W. Mills, a strong political power in El Paso, had been urging the government to confiscate the property of those who had supported the Confederate cause. Albert H.
French was elected county judge in 1866. William Bacon was elected district judge, and James Zabriskie was chosen district attorney. Fountain’s law practice began as a result of contacts he made at Ben Dowell’s salon. Ben Dowell, a friend of Mills, would also become Important to the scheme to defraud the Tigua and the government for personal gain. Dowell was married to Juana Marquez, a full-blooded Tigua whose family included tribal Caciques, or Chiefs.
They did not speak English. Nor did they read or write. It was in Dowell’s bar that Fountain met the commissioners in charge of dispersing rebel property and was “assigned to the staff to investigate titles for ranches, mills, business, private residences, and other properties of former Confederates in the El Paso district. Fountain appreciate the work no doubt, as by this point his family was nearly penniless. One of the properties confiscated was the Overland Mail. The courts repossessed it and held it in trust. Fountain was named the trustee, and promptly moved both his family and the families of Gaylord Clark and J.P. Hague on to the properties.
Fountain had quickly befriended W.W. Mills upon his arrival to El Paso. Mills was at the time the most influential man in the dominant political faction, the Radical Republican Party. Mills arranged for Fountain to become the assistant assessor and deputy collector of the internal revenue the district surveyor. Joining Mills and Fountain were Luis Cardis; Albert French, county judge; James Zabriskie, district attorney; William Bacon, district judge; Frank Williams; Charles Conely; Ben Dowell; Gaylord Clarke; J.M.
Lujan; and parish priest of San Elizario, Reverend Antonio Borajo. These men constituted the “Mills Ring”. This group split, however, in 1868 over disputes about the rich salt deposits near Guadalupe peak. The earlier ring of Mills, Zabriskie, and French known as the “custom house ring” did not last long, but managed to grant favors to local merchants and secure political power long enough to acquire some lucrative properties. Fountain would not allow loyalty to Mills to blind him from the future opportunities in El Paso. He soon became friends with William M.
Pierson, a man who wielded more judicial power than Mills. Pierson in fact was violently opposed to Mills. Fountain seeing that the balance of power was shifting aligned himself with Pierson shortly before Mills was removed from office and lost his vast power over the area. Fountain ran against Mills in a Legislative election even though he had told Mills in a letter that he would not. Fountain won the election and even though Mills contested the outcome, Fountain became the state Senator. By 1870 Fountain had already been Senate Majority Leader and was now President of the Senate and Chairman of the Indian Affairs and Frontier Protection Committee.
His friend Gaylord Clarke was now a judge thanks to Fountains influence. Clarke traveled to Austin to visit Bishop Gregg in order to seek a Protestant missionary for El Paso. Specifically they wanted one Reverend Joseph Wilkin Tays. He was the chaplain for the Senate and was currently disgraced for having preformed a mixed-marriage ceremony. Gregg agreed and Tays made his way to El Paso.
He was a valued member of the community from the start. He ran a school and conducted services on Sundays. His source for income, however, was real estate and surveying as county surveyor, a position that Fountain made sure he received. In 1871 when Fountain returned to Austin he pushed “An Act to Incorporate the Town of Ysleta in El Paso County” through the Legislature. The boundaries of the act included lands belonging to the Tigua, as recognized in 1854.
The act did not leave any opening for an election to determine if Ysleta wanted to be incorporated. Even if it had the Tigua wo …